Dallas Exhibit Celebrates The Art Of Ida O’Keeffe

Many don’t know that the sister of Georgia O’Keeffe was an accomplished artist in her own right.

By Michael Marks & Joy DiazDecember 21, 2018 10:13 am

The name Georgia O’Keeffe probably brings to mind images of giant, brightly-colored flowers, or the artist’s famous skulls, sunsets or the Southwest. Many people don’t realize that Georgia’s sister was also an artist in her own right. But that’s changing, thanks to an exhibition of Ida O’Keeffe’s work at the Dallas Museum of Art It’s called “Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow.”

Sue Canterbury, associate curator of American art at the Dallas Museum of Art says she decided to mount the Ida O’Keeffe exhibition after seeing one of her works, a lighthouse, at a Dallas collector’s home.

“I was really rather stunned, actually,” Canterbury says. “I like everyone else, didn’t really realize that Georgia had a younger sister who had painted.”

Canterbury says the majority of collectors who own Ida O’Keeffe paintings had inherited them, or acquired them long ago. Canterbury obtained more pieces when collectors learned about the planned DMA exhibition.

Canterbury says echoes in the O’Keeffe sisters’ life experiences affected their art pedagogy. Similarities in their work are apparent. They both studied with the same Virginia art teacher in their youth, and, 15 years apart, went to Columbia University Teachers College, and studied art with the same instructor there.

“The way he taught composition, but also, really, working with materials is very similar,” Canterbury says. “And the way that he built forms, and the kind of shading that he instructed his students in, is shared by the two sisters.”

Ida O’Keeffe’s art is different than her sister’s. She’s more experimental, and focused on abstract work, later in life. Canterbury says she altered her style over time.

“I think [that] sometimes frustrated the critics who wanted to see this one evolving, cohesive sort of style,” Canterbury says.

Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe, Variation on a Lighthouse Theme II, c. 1931-32, oil on canvas, Private Collection, Dallas, Texas

Ida O’Keeffe, like most other female artists of her era, didn’t become widely known, or her art shown. Canterbury says that’s because, other than Georgia O’Keeffe, female artists had little access to dealers who could promote their work and get it the exposure it needed.

O’Keeffe worked as an instructor at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, teaching art and textiles. She produced art of her own during that time, but Canterbury says the DMA exhibit includes only one of those pieces, called “Stargazing in Texas.”

O’Keeffe was influenced by the other places she lived, including Missouri, in 1938.

“The style that she was practicing in the summer of ’38 probably had a great deal to do with the influence of regionalism, that she was seeing a great deal of while she was in the midwest.”

The Dallas Museum of Art exhibit continues through February 24, 2019.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.